KANON (Canon, Cannon), JACQUES, privateer, officer in the navy; fl. 1756–61.
The first known record of Jacques Kanon is for the fall of 1756 when he was in command of a privately outfitted privateer from Dunkerque, France. On a cruise in the English Channel he took several prizes including a much larger enemy vessel, and subsequently received a commission as lieutenant in the navy. In January 1758, in command of the frigate Valeur (20 guns), he captured an English privateer. In April, under orders to escort three vessels carrying rice, wheat, and flour to New France, he left Dunkerque with a smaller frigate Mignonne. During the crossing the ships took a prize north of the Strait of Belle Isle, but otherwise had an uneventful passage.
Kanon may or may not have known François Bigot* and Joseph-Pierre Cadet* before his arrival in Quebec. He quickly gained their confidence afterwards. In August, Cadet hired Kanon and gave him instructions for his agents at Bordeaux concerning supplies he needed for the next year. In return for services to Cadet, Kanon was to receive 200 livres per month, 50 tons of free cargo space, and 2 1/2 per cent of the net profit from the sale of any prizes taken en route. Late in August, Kanon sailed without convoy from Quebec to Bordeaux where Cadet’s agents began to purchase several ships and to charter others. Difficulties prevented an early departure for New France. But finally, on 25 March 1759, 17 heavily laden merchantmen left Bordeaux under the over-all command of Kanon in the newly acquired 26-gun Machault, of 550 tons burden and with a crew of 166 men. Again Kanon’s crossing was uneventful and unobserved. By the last week in May all Cadet’s ships had reached Quebec safely. These ships and two navy frigates and a flute under the command of Jean Vauquelin* were the only ships to reach Quebec in 1759.
Vauquelin, who had distinguished himself the year before at Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), was Kanon’s senior in rank, but the latter, as Cadet’s chief captain, was not without influence in the councils held at Quebec. During the attack by the English Kanon resisted serving under Vauquelin and at times appeared to operate quasi-independently, thus frustrating some of the operations against the English in the river. These included an attempt to capture a 50-gun ship and three frigates above the city.
After the fall of Quebec, the French retained their naval vessels in the upper St Lawrence and Kanon was ordered to lead the merchant ships to France. Several ran aground during departure, but on 25 November Kanon sailed past Quebec and down river with five ships. Their crossing to France was unopposed and on 23 December Kanon anchored at Brest. Kanon was apparently under Cadet’s orders to command a second convoy to New France but, no doubt after learning how unpromising the naval situation was for the French, he abandoned the venture. Instead, he returned to Dunkerque where outfitters readied two privateers for him to sail to Saint-Domingue (Hispaniola). He is last heard of in 1761, in command of yet another privateer on a four month cruise.
Jacques Kanon was first and foremost a privateer. His association with New France had been in his own interest, which was directed elsewhere with the fall of Quebec.
[The most detailed sketch of Kanon’s antecedents and career is in the text and notes of Jean de Maupassant, “Les deux expéditions de Pierre Desclaux au Canada (1759 et 1760),” Revue historique de Bordeaux, VIII (1915), 225–40, 313–30. j.s.p.]
Journal du marquis de Montcalm (Casgrain), 431, 557, 595. “Journal du siège de Québec” (Fauteaux), APQ Rapport, 1920–21, 140, 146, 203, 239. Lettres de divers particuliers (Casgrain), 100, 218. Lettres de l’intendant Bigot (Casgrain), 52, 82, 100. Lettres du marquis de Vaudreuil (Casgrain), 89, 171. Mémoires sur le Canada, depuis 1749 jusqu’à 1760, 126–27. “Le sieur Canon ou Kanon,” BRH, XXV (1919), 206–9.